Driving Safely: The Conversation – Part 1

Americans love their cars.  I mean who doesn’t like being free-wheeling and independent?  Who really thinks about a time when we can no longer drive?  We are so tied to our vehicles and our freedom to drive that we don’t even think about that.  However, what if we think about this BEFORE we have to on an urgent basis?  TAKE A LOOK at this interesting 3 minute video sponsored by a National insurance company.   Then please read on as I share two true stories:

STORY #1:  My brothers and I thought about this issue when our 79 year old Dad had several little “fender-benders” after driving short trips to the store or fast food locations.  He had trouble parking and backing out of the parking spaces, although he didn’t acknowledge these occurrences.   Added to that, our Mother observed driving difficulties when she rode with him; and we could tell that he made her nervous.

What was our solution?  We asked Dad’s Cardiologist, whom we knew well, to talk to him during the next office visit and to our surprise, Dad did give up his keys.  Basically, the Doctor told Dad that because of his health condition etc., he could have an accident and hurt someone else.  This ‘conversation’ worked for Dad.  It may not work for your parent or spouse.

STORY #2:  My husband Mel’s Mother was an excellent driver and didn’t have any problems at all up to age 83.  But one day, she told Mel that she was ready for him to sell the car and that she was going to stop driving for good.  What prompted her decision?  Although she had already stopped driving at night, she was driving one day and became uncomfortable with the decisions that were necessary to make while driving on the freeway.  She did what I hope to do one day; and that is to stop driving ‘on my own.’  I would rather make that decision before there are any problems and relieve those in my family from having to deal with the issue.

Helping the Elder to be a Safe Driver

The decision to stop driving isn’t easy for anyone to make.  The Complete Eldercare Planner, by Joy Loverde, includes a transportation chapter (page 225) and I would like to provide her list with respect to keeping drivers safer behind the wheel.  “Helping your elders to maintain the status of “safe driver” is the first approach to extending their driving capabilities.  Discuss the following possibilities:

  • Arrange for a physical exam, including vision and hearing checkup
  • Review medications with the doctor or pharmacist and discuss side effects
  • Purchase a wide rearview mirror and add a seat cushion if needed
  • Keep a charged cell phone handy to use in emergency
  • Plan trip routes ahead of time
  • Avoid left turns as much as possible
  • Encourage daytime driving
  • Suggest an exercise program to improve overall fitness
  • Consider a driver assessment
  • Keep the car in excellent working condition
  • Make sure the auto insurance payments are up to date”

Thinking ahead

Broach the subject of options.  If the senior isn’t able to drive any longer, there needs to be a plan in place for how future needs will be handled.  My Mom and Dad liked to get in the car and head to a restaurant for lunch or dinner.  They also needed a car to get to doctors’ appointments as well.  We discussed driving alternatives that could work for them.  In their town, we found out about Care Cars which helped to fill in the gap for seniors who didn’t have a way to get to the doctor or dentist’s office.  Your town may have something similar.   You can check with your local Agency on Aging.

As for going out to dinner, I made sure when I came to town, every month for a few days, that I took them out every day I was there.  In between times, my brothers took turns taking them out for a meal as well.  Obviously, it wasn’t the same as their being able to get in their own car, but it helped fill in the gap.

Driving Safely:  The Conversation – Part 2 will conclude with more about “the conversation” and suggest some additional resources.

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”  Mark Twain